Thursday, September 26, 2013

Breaking Night by Liz Murray-Things a Book Taught Me

The Homeless to Harvard Story...

Breaking Night was a recommendation from my friend, Jennifer, and I am so glad that I decided to finally read this book! Late to the party? Yes. However, I'm so glad I finished it. I read this book at a time when the grind of teaching had started to seep in, and I was losing some of my steam with my more challenging students. As teachers, there is something to be said about returning from a vacation (or even a day) off of teaching. The break from students and your work gives you a much needed reprieve, and renews your resolve. The break reminds me I am doing good things. Somehow after a break, I remember this more resolutely.
Breaking Night is a memoir about Liz Murray's life. When I started out reading it, I was about 3/4 of the way through the book when I was wondering how in the world a kid like her ended up at Harvard! Her story was devastating. What sticks with me is the showers she was forced to take in her apartment she shared with her parents and sister. The sludge at the bottom of the shower was so thick, and the stench so permeating, she was forced to overturn a bucket, stand on top of the bucket, and hold her breath. The fact that she learned at such a young age of her parents' crippling addiction to drugs and alcohol. She is entered into the system, and ends up in a group home, but we all know how that works. It's horrible! It is never a substitute for parents who truly love and care about you. 
This whole book taught me so much. While it devastated me to read about her life, it also inspired me. As I read her tale, I realized more than ever how many of our students suffer every night, and we have no idea. We come to work often blithely unaware of any atrocities that may have occurred at home. Our singular focus is on achievement, and bringing our students up to proficiency. I understand the importance of that, but I also understand that they need love. They need acceptance, nurturing, coddling. Sometimes they just need food, or a haircut, or some new underwear.  Take a moment to pause. Think about what these students may need other than to learn their multiplication facts, or the three types of sentences. There are things bigger than them that they cannot control, and you can either be part of their solution or part of their problem. 
YOU.CAN.CHANGE.THEIR.LIFE. Do it. Dare yourself to pause a moment. Think of the child. Look them in the eyes. What do you see? 
If you look deep enough, you will see that they are a child out of sync with a controlled environment. They don't understand that. They know chaos, they live and breathe it. Be patient with their behavior that appears of of control, and let them know that at school we have rules to protect people, and you are here to protect them. It's a challenge I issued myself after reading Breaking Night. Make someone's day better. Every dang day-Just Do It. Like Nike. Every Dang Day.

Liz Murray may be in your class.
Be the inspiration. 

I love you all. Be blessed!

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